I inherited my grandfather’s Voigtlander Bessa 66 from my parents around 2010, along with a collection of 35mm equipment that had belonged to my dad and me. My grandfather had stopped using the camera before I was born, so I’d never seen the Voigtlander before. I was quite taken with it. I loved its compact size and its clever folding bellows mechanism. But using it turned out to be more challenging! I shot a few rolls of T-MAX and nearly everything ended up way overexposed. So I set the camera aside.
Fast forward 10 years and I decided my official Pandemic Hobby would be photography. As that hobby grew I started to explore the older cameras that I’d been using for decoration. I was especially interested in using the Voigtlander for a backwoods canoeing trip, figuring that the no-battery, entirely manual camera would be better suited to a rough, wet adventure.
Some quick testing told me that the Voigtlander’s shutter speeds were way off, so I sent it off for repair. The shutter then broke again, leaving me with a max speed of 1/50th. So, off for another repair! The cycle of life for vintage cameras.
With the shutter working correctly I loaded up a roll of Lomography’s Berlin 400. I wanted to amplify the grain a bit, so I decided to push it one stop to 800 ISO.
Now, that may have been a mistake. This combination of fast film and slow-ish shutter limited my ability to do outdoor photos on anything but a cloudy day. The Voigtlander claims to have a max shutter speed of 1/500. But the shutter control on my camera jams up if I try to go past 1/250
Since I’d already repaired the shutter twice I didn’t want to try and force the issue. Using a yellow filter helped, since it cut about one stop of light, but in future I probably won’t load anything faster than 400 in this camera.
The Voigtlander Bessa 66s are scale finder cameras. Before taking a photo you estimate the distance to your subject and then turn the lens to the same distance. You can take a zone focus approach as well. The lens comes with two zone indicators and a handy depth-of-field tool that you can use to figure out the right focus for your shot. Sometimes you don’t get the focus quite right!
Once the roll was complete I developed it myself in Ilford Ifosol3. Lomo recommends 8:45, but I increased that to 13:00 because of the push. I scanned the negatives using my cobbled-together home scanning setup: a Lomography Digitaliza, Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and a vintage Super Macro-Takumar 50mm F4 lens. I edited with Affinity Photo.
As I’ve re-engaged with photography I’ve come to enjoy the patient and slow side of the hobby, which is definitely part of shooting with the Bessa 66. It’s not a camera for quick shots; it’s a camera that requires some forethought and deliberation. But it’s also small and light enough that I can bring it anywhere, ready to capture the moment… assuming that I don’t need to capture the moment quickly.
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